Arrived on the South Island it was time for my first Great Walk and my first multi day self-sufficient (concerning food) hike – or tramp how New Zealanders call it. And during the days in the Abel Tasman National Park and Nelson I learned a lot of things.
Actually we all learn a lot everyday but are mostly distracted by louder things happening around us. Or because we don’t realize at that moment that we actually learned something. That’s nothing new, I know.
I have a little notebook in which I try to write my personal everyday discoveries but since I got to New Zealand I haven’t written anything into it. My mind seems still too unresty and distracted so today it is nice to sit down at Lake Matheson on a cloudy day and write these lines.
1. Cooking real food even if it is the easiest tastes wonderful: It’s challenging when you plan your food for the first multi-day hike you’ve about to do. And after I have been spoiled last year in Canada during my “canoe – portage – camping” experience – thanks, Pat, for that luxury wilderness food! – I knew I couldn’t go for just instant noodles and bars. So I felt really excited in creating ideas and an order what to eat first. Well, I might not be an expert yet – no space for booze – but I got cheese, hummus, pumpkin, couscous, celery and other things ready before I needed to go to the dehydrated instant food on the last evenings.
Memo to me: It’s important to count correctly. I counted I’m 4 days out. Actually it was 5. So also good to take some spare food with you.
2. A warm friendly place is all you need after a long cold and wet day. And we had a lot of rain. 2 1/2 days it’s been an ongoing pouring drizzle from above day and night. Even my waterproof boots and jacket gave up. So finding a dry place to warm up again is precious. Either if it is in the planned hut after a day out cramped together with the other hikers. Or a 4 star lodge where they welcomed us – all soaked through, muddy and smelly – so heartly and offered us a place at the fire that we couldn’t believe it. Thank you, Awaroa Lodge!
3. I am always happy to sit at a fireplace and listen to other people’s stories about traveling and their motivation. And I was lucky to hear also some Camino stories. Or to learn new card games like Chinese Poker and Gringo at a candlelit table – although I don’t really like playing games which is maybe rooted in the experience of too many fights over games with my brother.
But jumping at least once out of the “no to games rule” and playing with the guys one night in the hut got me a cup of red wine from, of course, a French hiker.
4. Even at low tide you will get wet when you’re crossing a river. And there is no “right way” to do the crossing. Everyone chose the way – barefoot, socks, crocs, boots, just before low tide, just after low tide, straight or in a curve – she/he/they felt best with. Following the tide timetable for certain passages of the walk added little adventurous feelings to us.
And concerning the river crossing I might say I would do it the second time differently…
5. I can still act and feel like a 12 year old very fast and easy when I see seals, ducklings or find bones at the beach and start digging like an archaeologist for a dinosaur. And well, after some research I have to admit it has not been a stegosaurus – it has been a pilot whale that stranded earlier this year.
6. Don’t try and prepare for everything. Some things cannot be planned. And sometimes you just need to lace your new Sneakers, pack some sweets and snacks and get into the adventure – like Adam. And believe me nothing could hide my doubtful and slightly amused face when I first saw his shoes. Yet they might have lost their shininess but they can as well take you over 5 days hiking.
7. You know you’re hungry when you’re craving for a Vegemite butter sandwich – and you’re not an Australian. At least I had an instant flat white coffee shot leftover to soothe the pain.
8. Sometimes a change in plans is annoying in the beginning but can lead to something even better. Like meeting Adam at the park entrance and changing my mind from walking alone in silence to walking in good company with lots of stories to share and things to learn.
9. Sandfly bites itch like hell. And they do that even after a week. So don’t stop for pictures or anything too long. Too many selfies will make you regret them even 10 days later.
So after another night in Nelson and a reunion evening with Michael, who surprisingly didn’t stay in Wellington to find work but got to Nelson as well, I thought that maybe it is time for some company on this part of the journey. So Michael and I teamed up to travel the next days together. Further south until Queenstown. Maybe. Who knows after all?
What have you experienced or learned recently?